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Most renters dream of transitioning from renting to owning homes. For some, it is more financially responsible to buy a place of their own.

While leasing an apartment is cheaper in the short term, buying a home is most likely the largest investment and asset a person ever owns.

Renting vs Buying a Home

Trying to figure out if it's better to rent or buy a home? Here's how you can run the numbers yourselves as well as a free and handy calculator to quickly get your answer!

The tricky part is determining when is the best time to switch from being a tenant to a homeowner. 

Consider these four factors before breaking a lease to purchase a house.

Run the Numbers

Online tools are great for those who want or need to determine if they should begin searching for a home to buy.

Using the Breakeven Analysis Methodology structured by Zillow, prospective house hunters can mathematically calculate the number of years at which buying becomes more cost-effective than renting.

To determine the cost of owning a home, individuals should find the total sum of their down payment, closing costs, mortgage, property taxes, insurance, maintenance and renovation, utilities, as well as condo or community fees. However, even with all costs included, the home hopefully sells for a profit down the road.

Renting costs are made up of deposits, broker fees, monthly payments, utilities, and insurance. It is more advantageous to own a property when the purchase cost is less than or equal to the total sum of monthly rent costs.

Zillow calculates how many years, on average, the breakeven horizon occurs in major cities.

Trying to figure out if it's better to rent or buy a home? Here's how you can run the numbers yourselves as well as a free and handy calculator to quickly get your answer!  #realestate #investments #marriage #money

Observe Market Trends

The housing market has fluctuated immensely throughout the past 10 years. Observe the times of year houses sold for less than their original listing prices to get the best deals.

If homes in a neighborhood have consistently sold for less than their estimate value, it’s probably a good time to buy. However, areas in trending neighborhoods are going to be inflated and homes are going to cost more than they typically would.

Homes centrally-located or close to water are typically steep in price. Keep location-related price variances in mind; some neighborhoods are always going to be more expensive, regardless of the time of year or popularity.

Assess Your Finances

Individuals should not buy a home if they can’t afford it. Bad credit leads to a significantly more difficult process of trying to obtain a mortgage. The likelihood of being approved for a low rate is compromised by negative credit history.

Work on improving a credit score prior to applying for a mortgage. Then calculate the monthly cost of owning a home.

The higher the down payment, the lower the monthly mortgage cost and the faster a person owns their property outright.

These calculations may affect how prospective buyers save for their down payments or stretch budgets to afford more expensive homes.

The higher the down payment, the lower the monthly mortgage cost and the faster a person owns their property outright.

These calculations may affect how prospective buyers save for their down payments or stretch budgets to afford more expensive homes.

Best Calculator to Decide Whether to Rent or Buy

If all that information made your head spin, I have found an easy tool that can run the numbers for you.

A few years ago, the NY Times created a free calculator to help you determine whether rent or buying a place is the best option for you.

Try it out here and let me know what you think!

When we entered our numbers, it confirmed that buying our home was the much better option for us.

Look Ahead, Beyond Your Home

Anticipating a baby? Planning on traveling for an extended period of time? Desperately need a new car in the next year?

These are all factors to take into account when deciding on the right time to purchase a home.

Work with a financial planner to create a strategy. Prospective homeowners can confidently rent while taking the appropriate steps to prepare to own properties.

Obviously, the decision to buy or rent differs on a person-to-person basis. There are many factors in play within a home purchase, but these four are good starting points.

Moving to a new house is something that can be looked into in many different ways.

If you’ve spent all your spendings on the house of your dreams, you won’t probably even read this article seeking for advice on how to save a buck while moving family to a new house.

However, if you’re blessed to be married to a service member whose being relocated on a regular basis (along with this family) you could definitely use some friendly advice on how to save some money when moving homes.

Easy Ways to Save Money on Your Movestressed over a big move coming up? A military mama shares strategies to have less stress and save money while moving!

As a military mommy myself, I’m almost entirely used to changing homes and traveling places with my family.

At first, it gave me a lot of headaches and it was devastating to the family budget most of the times, but we got the ropes in the meantime.

This is what we learned (the hard way….)

You Don’t Have to be Living Large

Back in the days when we were just going out and when my husband decided to enroll in the Air Force where he is currently serving, we had to face and deal with $30K in debt.

I guess that the first step in tackling debt was to get on the same terms and to set our minds straight about what we wanted from our lives.

Knowing how to control our spending habits also helped to a great extent at this point.

After that, everything else (including frequent movings) came really easy peasy for us.

However, even now, when the entire family is medically insured and my husband is contributing a fair amount of money to the family budget, we still struggle sometimes to make ends meet.

One thing that’s important if you are frequently moving is to become aware of the fact that you probably won’t be nesting in your new home. Therefore, there is no need for you to aim for something luxurious and fancy.

Your new (rented) house should be spacious enough for your family to feel comfortable in it, and to be located in the nice neighborhood and easily accessible.

You might settle for a house in the suburbs as well, as those have fewer maintenance costs associated with their name also.

Practical Tips When Moving

Getting ready for a big move? Learn ways your family can save money while moving so you can have less stress and more cash in your bank account!

Moving on to the actual moving now.

I’m pretty much confident that you already know the date when you should relocate to a new address and leave your current home.

There is no excuse for you to leave it all for the last minute then!

Packing things up front and making sure that you have everything you need to start packing is essential here.

If you act well enough in advance you might be able to catch some stuff at discounted prices as well.

Also, be aware that you can always ask for some assistance from the stores you are buying packing tape from for example.

There’s a great chance that they have some extra boxes they want to get rid of already, and which you can use in the process.

Finally, you don’t have to ditch all the old stuff you have and just throw it to the junkyard.

Note that you can get some extra money out of it by organizing a garage sale during the last days in your old house or simply putting things online for sale.

Thoughts on Making Moving Less Stressful

I’d love to hear from you – how do you save money while making a big move?

Our family looks like a typical Midwestern family. We’re raising two small kids – ages four and one – in a nice suburban house with a big yard. No dogs, but you get the idea.

What’s unusual about us is the absence of something that nearly every household holds: debt.

We were able to pay cash for our house, cars and extensive travel abroad by the age of 30. So how did we do this – and how can you?

Money Lessons from Growing Up

Did we make a ton of money, got lucky with risky investments or had a trust fund? Not even close.

We weren’t high earners, we had the risk tolerance of a 102-year-old, and we came from humble beginnings.

My husband Mark grew up in a lower middle-class neighborhood in Ohio, while my family lost all our possessions in the Bosnian civil war and lived as refugees until we immigrated to North America.

As for all of us, Mark and I were influenced by our early life experiences and upbringing.

Mark’s dad was in his mid-40’s when Mark was born (a happy surprise!). He grew up during the Great Depression, and witnessed how hard his family had to work to make ends meet.

Mark’s grandfather struck a deal with the local mob called “The Black Hand” so he could work in a rock quarry. The mob had influence over who got selected to work in the quarry – and the competition for the few available jobs was fierce. In exchange, Mark’s grandfather had to brew beer and wine for the mob during the Prohibition.

Mark’s dad was only a kid, but he deeply felt his parents’ fear and struggle. As a result, Mark’s dad only spent money on the things he truly valued – and passed some of those habits onto Mark.

I grew up in a different part of the world from Mark, a communist country called Yugoslavia which no longer exists.

My childhood was cut short by a brutal civil war when I was 10 years old. My family left everything behind and became refugees, with almost no possessions and living on food packets provided by the Red Cross.

I realized then how fleeting possessions were, and how little they mattered to me. The things we truly valued, and that no one could take away from us, were our experiences and love for one another.

Three years into the war, my family immigrated to Canada. We struggled to learn English and to make ends meet. But through all that, I never saw myself as poor.

I saw my family as successful because we worked hard to overcome challenges.

I felt that we were on a great adventure together. And I was deeply grateful to be in a peaceful country with limitless opportunity.

Finding Financial Freedom as a Couple

Despite growing up worlds apart, Mark and I came to similar conclusions early in life.

We realized that accumulating material possessions would leave us with a stack of bills and obligations, but wouldn’t make us any happier – so we invested little time and money into possessions.

We rented affordable places throughout our twenties, never drove new cars, and focused on experiences that gave us joy.

Our family of four now lives on one income under six figures – and continues to save enough to make work an option for both of us by the time our youngest starts kindergarten. It boils down to making conscious spending choices based on our values.

Before we met, Mark and I already knew what it felt like to pursue a passion and feel on purpose.

Mark was in a band during college and recorded four albums. While he was trying to make music a career, I was running around with swords. I won the bronze medal at the Canadian fencing championships, with aspirations for the Olympics. We both plowed everything into our passions.

After those stages ended for us, we both experienced a temporary lack of meaning – what we call “The Desert”. But we still knew that spending a bunch of money on possessions wouldn’t make us happy. It would just serve as a temporary distraction.

Instead, we built relationships with friends, traveled a lot, made the time and space to explore other interests and passions, and eventually rediscovered that awesome feeling of being on purpose.

We never stopped valuing our time and the freedom to live life on our terms. That sometimes meant going against the grain and listening to ourselves instead of peer pressure.

Resisting Peer Pressure, Paying with Cash

One major example was deciding if and when to buy a house.

Our well-meaning friends and colleagues told us things like, “Gotta have a place to live – why not own it? You’re just throwing money away on rent.” But we felt that owning a house – and spending our time and money on maintenance and repairs – would have reduced our ability to do what we loved.

So we chose to rent a nice, small two-bedroom condo that cost us $370 per month each, with a gym, pool, condo fees and even some utilities included.

We were very happy there for five years – while continuing to sock money away. We even got some extra cash flow by renting out the basement for a couple of years.

We eventually bought a nice house with cash after our first child was born. But the decision was still bittersweet for us.

When the U-Haul was fully loaded on moving day, we held each other in the empty living room and cried.

Sounds crazy, I know – we just bought a bigger and better house with cash, and yet we were crying.

But we knew that a stage in our lives was ending, and it was hard to imagine having as much freedom and fun as we had in our previous years.

But we recognized that life had changed with a baby – we weren’t exactly going to be jetting off to Paris for a while, no matter how many airline miles we’d amassed. A nice neighborhood, yard, and good schools became more important.

We honestly felt that we were buying the house for her. And so far the house has served us well. It did not end up eating our souls!

Being happy with our financial decisions long-term is a matter of examining why we’re doing the things we’re doing.

This is key!

What do we value the most? What are our goals and priorities?

What will give us flexibility in life, so we can change direction when our interests and passions change – whether that’s changing careers, starting businesses, or being able to spend more time with our kids?

Is the timing right for us to make a major purchase such as buying a house?

When we’re true to ourselves instead of advertising and peer pressure, we’ll be amazed at the freedom and joy we can gain.

Mark Lancia and Mihaela Jekic Ph.D. help guide people down the road toward financial freedom decades before traditional retirement age by helping them make the space to discover their own unique callings in life.

This leads to eliminating peripheral waste and building a financial springboard – so we can take risks, start businesses, pursue our passions, and clear the path to true meaning and purpose in life.

Get three free chapters of their book, “Money for Meaning: Philosophy for a Life of Extraordinary Freedom”.

What do you do when you love to travel but your budget struggles to keep pace with your desire to roam?

You could stay home and ignore the travel itch. Or, you could use a credit card to make your trips more wallet-friendly. Here’s how.

Travel Well on the Cheap

Learn how you can travel hack and save a ton of money on your next trip! #travel #money

Know thy card

The best way to make the most of your travel rewards card to save money on travel is to know how it works. For example, some cards restrict when you can book travel. Others, like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ ® World Elite MasterCard have no blackout dates.

With this card, you can earn 2X miles on purchases, then redeem them for travel statement credit.

This way, you can book travel according to when and where you find the best deal, not when your card dictates you can use your rewards.

Get more mileage from redemptions

Using travel rewards to pay for flights or hotels means less money you pay out of pocket for trips. But, your credit card could yield even more savings if you’re able to earn a percentage of your rewards back when you redeem.

That’s something the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® does. Members earn 5% of their miles back towards their next redemption when they redeem for travel statement credit. That allows you to stretch your miles further.

If you have a card that allows for points or miles to be transferred to airline or hotel travel programs, read the fine print so you know how much your rewards are worth.

Some cards let you transfer points on a 1:1 basis but not all do and when saving is the goal, you don’t want to lose any rewards value if you can avoid it.

Learn how you can travel hack and save a ton of money on your next trip! #travel #money

Pick your bonus carefully

Many travel cards offer an introductory bonus to entice travelers. Typically, you’re expected to meet a minimum spending requirement to qualify for the bonus. But if you can do that, the bonus could translate to several hundred dollars in travel value.

The key is to pick a card whose bonus matches your spending style and offers the most rewards possible.

If you’ve got to charge $5,000 in the first 90 days, for example, but you’re used to charging $500 a month to your card, it probably doesn’t make sense to chase after a bigger bonus, especially if you can’t pay it off in full. The interest charges can eat away at any savings from the bonus in the long run.

Pay attention to the fees

Earning travel rewards can save you money but not if your card is costing you big in fees.

If you routinely travel outside the U.S., look for a card that has no foreign transaction fee, since that can make the things you buy more expensive.

And if a travel credit card has an annual fee, remember to weigh that carefully against the value of the rewards you can earn or the other perks the card offers to make sure it’s worth it.

Thoughts on Using Credit Cards for Travel

How many of you have used credit cards to offset some travel costs?

Thanks to our partner Credit Sesame for sponsoring this post. You can get on the details on how our sponsors help out here

Debt is not something that you want to have looming over your head, especially if you want to eventually purchase a car or have a mortgage.

Trust me.

I learned early on that the debt I incurred in my life was NOT going to simply disappear and if I tried to make that happen in any other way than paying it, my credit score would take an almost permanent nosedive.

What to do was the question that I continued to ask myself, but I eventually was able to answer that question and since I did, I have become debt free and I LOVE it.

Below, I will talk about some tips on how to pay down your debt and what worked for me. I hope that you can take what I did and apply it somehow to your situation and benefit from it.

Refinance When You Can

I owed a lot of money in student loan debt, I am not going to lie to you. When I decided to make the big leap, I still owed $25,000 and it was eating at me.

I wanted to eliminate this debt, but I did not know where to turn because I made payments every month, on time, for the last six years and hardly touched my loan balance.

You see, I was on an income-based repayment plan that limited my payments based on my teacher’s salary. Little did I know that these small payments were barely causing any difference in my principal balance due to the interest being charged.

Wow! What a waste right?

Since I had a good credit score from using a credit card in college, I chose to refinance my student loan debt and I am glad that I did. It took me a while and jumping through some hoops to receive the approval, but I got it.

When I refinanced, my new interest rate was about one in a half to two percentage points LESS than what I was paying, which was incredible for me. I was going to be able to save a TON of money on interest.

In addition, I was able to expedite the repayment term on my student loan, which meant that I did not have to choose the 10, 15, or 20-year repayment options.

One thing I do want to point out is that when you do refinance, make sure you choose a lender who will allow you to pay off your student loans early WITHOUT a penalty. This page has a list of lenders that do not charge prepayment fees.

Live Under Your Means

You have always heard the phrase that people are “living within or above their means.” What this means is that they are choosing to live frugally even though they may be able to live a more extravagant lifestyle.

You want to make sure that you live below your means as you try to pay down your debt. I did it. You will not be alone and you will thank yourself for making the sacrifice – I know I did.

The way I lived below my means was that I stopped going out on the town and I stopped eating food that I did not need.

I did not splurge on meats and I did not stop at fast food restaurants. In addition, I lived with my aunt and uncle until I paid down my student loan debt.

Take on a Side Hustle

I think that everyone should try this side hustle business because I know I LOVED it. I freelanced in writing and I also offered photography services when I was not working in my traditional role as a high school teacher.

Each of my side hustles helped me net a few hundred dollars extra per month when I was working at the high school and in the summer, it helped to directly replace my income that I would have otherwise lost. For freelancing ideas, check out this list of over 70.

Jump in with Both Feet First

One of the best pieces of advice I can give to you is to go ahead and jump in with both of your feet in front of you. The reason I say this is because if you continue to wait, you will never find yourself in a position where you are just ready to pay off your debt.

Make the move happen – that is what I did and I paid off $25,000 of student loan debt in just 15 months.

Jacob is the blogger behind Dollar Diligence. Over there, he talks about budgeting, paying down debt, saving, and side hustles. If you like this article and want to see more, feel free to follow him.

This is a guest post from Eric Rosenberg, a finance writer at Personal Profitability, InvestmentZen, and other personal finance, technology, and travel publications.

When you are married, investing is a tag team sport. Even though I have two finance degrees and have managed a portion of a $500,000 investment fund, I still consult with my wife when making investment decisions.

If you are married or have combined finances with a partner, your investments should be a team effort as well.

Let’s take a look at how to best manage investments with a spouse to ensure you both come out of the experience with more trust and respect, not a blame game nightmare.

Everyone Starts with Personal Finances Alone

No one goes into their personal finance journey with a partner. For me, managing my money slowly ramped up with my first job in high school.

I handled virtually everything on my own through college, and everything on my own since graduating ten years ago. (Holy cow, I graduated from college ten years ago!)

For most of the next five years, I handled all of my money decisions solo. It worked well for me, as I paid off a car loan in half of the five-year term and my $40,000 student loans from my MBA in two years and six days. All the while, my income, savings, and investments marched steadily upward.

But one day, my girlfriend moved in and things slowly started to change. When we got married, we fully integrated our bank accounts and investments to manage as a family.

Now, all of a sudden, my investment decisions impacted two people, not just me. So, would it be fair for me to make those decisions in a vacuum? Definitely not.

Building Trust with Money in a Relationship

After we moved in, our first step toward combined finances was our monthly living expenses.

When my wife moved in, I already owned a condo with a mortgage and HOA dues, so we split those costs in half and each paid our own way. We also split utilities and traded off buying groceries, but didn’t track that cost to the penny.

Over time, we got to know each other’s money habits a little better and found that we were a great money match for each other. We have the same values of long-term savings and investments and both came into our relationship debt free, aside from my mortgage.

This paved an excellent foundation for building trust, which strengthened both our finances and our relationship. Ultimately our financial experiences have brought us closer together, while it is common for the opposite to happen.

Create Rules for Investment Decisions

Early on in our marriage, my wife and I agreed that purchases over $100 required a brief discussion to ensure we both agreed it was worthwhile.

We are not strict on this but still hold to it as a general guideline. The more need based a purchase, the less likely we are to talk about it. If it is a want, we may discuss even if it is below $100.

With investments in the stock market, almost every decision has a potential impact of hundreds or thousands of dollars. Because of this, we discuss nearly every investment.

That may be the best option for you, but setting clear rules for what discussions are needed for changes in investment accounts is important. It also helps you from falling victim to a “hot stock tip” that your spouse knows more about.

A Second Opinion Never Hurts

When your doctor tells you something outlandish, you may want to go for a second opinion. The same is true of any investment idea. While a strategy may seem sound in your head, saying it out loud to someone you trust can help flush out any problems.

While a strategy may seem sound in your head, saying it out loud to someone you trust can help flush out any problems.

If you share an investment idea with your partner, you are ensuring two people approve of the strategy before tinkering with your money.

While odds are your idea is spot on, there may be costs or risks you didn’t consider. Plus, in this case your second opinion comes from someone with the exact same goal as you.

Your Spouse May Surprise You

While I have years of investment experience and my wife is lighter in the stocks and investments department, she is no dummy. Just last year when oil stocks were in a downward spiral, my wife suggested buying a few oil stocks at the bottom.

After all, gas powered cars are not going anywhere for a long while in most of the world, so profits and oil prices were bound to come back at some point.

I had read about the idea and chatted about the idea with a friend, but never had the gusto to login and actually invest in something. My wife brought up the idea to me the next day, and I was sold and on board.

I logged into my favorite investment app and entered a buy order for three stocks. We have since made more than a few bucks on the investments we made that day.

Team Up for Investment Success

No one is infallible, and working with a spouse toward retirement, home purchases, paying for college, and more leads to far better results than working alone. If you are both novices to investments, you can look at this as an opportunity to learn together. If one of you is more of an expert, it is a teaching moment and an opportunity to show off your stuff and impress the person you share a bed with. Wink, wink.

f you are both novices to investments, you can look at this as an opportunity to learn together. If one of you is more of an expert, it is a teaching moment and an opportunity to show off your stuff and impress the person you share a bed with. Wink, wink.

Investing can be intimidating, but couples don’t have to go it alone. By teaming up with your life’s biggest teammate, you can set yourselves on a great path to investment success.

Sick and tired of paying an arm and a leg for insurance? Learn how we were able to slash $1,000 with our insurance with these tactics!

The average American spends more than $2,000 each year for auto and home insurance and nearly twice as much on health insurance. That breaks down to almost $500 every single month.

How to Save on Your Insurance

Sick and tired of paying an arm and a leg for insurance? Learn how we were able to slash $1,000 with our insurance with these tactics! #savemoney #family #money #save

If you are tired of devoting such a large portion of your budget to insurance costs, there are a few things that can be done to lower your premiums.

Using the tactics below, we were able to save more than $1,000/ year with our insurance!

Shop Around for the Best Deals

Insurance costs can vary wildly from provider to provider. It is important to shop around and compare rates every couple of years.

You could try contacting multiple companies or one agent who sells insurance for multiple companies.

As you are calling for quotes, be sure to ask about any discounts you may be eligible for–not every agent will mention them during an initial quote.

I’ve included a contact list below of some of the big insurance companies to make it easier.

Bundle Your Policies

Purchasing multiple policies from the same insurer can help you save a significant amount of money.

Nearly every insurance company offers multi-policy discounts. Although discounts can vary from company to company, the national average is 10 percent.

My bundled policy saves me 15 percent.

Raise Your Deductible

The amount of risk you are willing to assume can have a huge impact on your insurance premiums.

No matter what type of insurance you buy, raising your deductible will lower your monthly insurance costs.

Of course, you will be on the hook for the deductible if something goes wrong.

But if you have an emergency fund, you can easily self-insure and get your investment to pay off in a year or two.

I recently saved $354 each year by raising my home insurance deductible from $250 to $1,000. Within two years, I will begin making money on that small adjustment.

Seek Out Specialists for Your Insurance

Some insurance companies specialize in a particular type of insurance or a particular demographic.

For example, if you are looking for mobile home insurance, you may do better with a company that specializes in mobile home insurance. The same is true of life insurance or health insurance.

Specialist companies often employ underwriters that are able to fully examine the extent of your disease or hobbies.

This may help you get better rates than you could get if you were simply lumped into one group.

Ask About Discounts

Discounts are available for every type of insurance.

You may be able to get a non-smoker discount, a professional discount, a student discount, a good credit or financial stability discount, renewal and loyalty discounts, and a myriad of other discounts if you simply ask for them.

Consider Group Insurance

There are a lot of different groups and associations that offer special insurance plans or discounts on various types of insurance.

You may already be a member of one of these organizations. If not, you could consider joining to reap the benefits.

The savings you are eligible for may easily cover the cost of membership fees.

Take a Defensive Driving Course

There are a lot of bad drivers on the road. Taking a defensive driving course will help you navigate the dangerous terrain. It can also help you save on your auto insurance premiums.

Embrace Safety Features and Devices

Safety features, such as airbags, anti-lock brake systems, and anti-theft systems, can help you save money on your auto insurance.

Fire alarms, deadbolts, and burglar alarms can help you save on your home insurance. You may already have one or more of these things. If not, they can be installed for a relatively low cost.

Don’t Buy Too Much Insurance

Although you should never skimp on insurance, it pays to be conservative and really think about the type of coverage you need before purchasing a policy.

You don’t need duplicate coverage–for example, a health insurance policy plus an auto insurance policy with health coverage.

You also don’t want to spend an exorbitant amount of money insuring a car or other items that aren’t worth more than a couple of thousand dollars.

Insure these items, but do so conservatively.

Guest post from Bailey Harris, who writes about home owners insurance and other finance topics for www.homeownersinsurance.org.

Early in my career, I remember sitting down with my dad and asking him how I could ever afford to buy a house as nice as the one I grew up in.

My parents have lived in the same home for more than twenty years, and homes in the Denver suburb have skyrocketed in that time.

Even with my MBA and good job as a financial analyst, I still struggled with the concept of ever owning a half a million dollar house.

Little did I know that joining my finances with my future wife would make it a reality.

Building a Down Payment Fund

When I finished school with a finance degree, buying a home wasn’t at the top of my mind. However, after a year at home, a year and a half with a roommate, and about a year living on my own, I was ready to own my own home.

As someone big on planning ahead, I wanted a “starter home” that would be great for myself and work comfortably with a future wife and a kid or two.

I started looking at what that might cost, and I had no idea how I could ever afford it.

Even making a solid salary, between insurance, retirement savings, and other living expenses, I didn’t see a clear path to saving $100,000 in cash, a 20% down payment on a $500,000.

And once I got there, even with low interest rates, I was still staring at a $2,000 monthly payment. Compared to the $600 or so I was paying in rent, that was ludicrous!

But I didn’t let it discourage me. I started saving. It was just a little bit at a time to start, but it was something.

I was also nearing the end of my MBA program and decided to keep what was left of my college savings for a down payment. I did have a good path to get out of student loan debt, so I figured my best bet was starting to save for a house.

Buying my First Home

A little less than a year later, I started to think about what other options I might have.

Without breaking the bank on a $500,000 house, I might still be able to find something good, right?

I started doing some hunting on Zillow and even went to check out a condo (decided condos were not for me) and a few houses with a Realtor. But I was having trouble finding something that was in an area I liked, wasn’t a complete junker, and in my budget.

I eventually gave up after looking at a house on a weird street that I didn’t like at the edge of my desired neighborhood that had some foundation issues.

I thought it just wasn’t my time, and put the house hunt on hold.

A short while later, I decided it was worth looking again and checked out a few homes with a new Realtor, a friend of my mother, and was running into the same issues.

She suggested looking at homes with a more open mind on my needs and wants. A few weeks later, I saw a really cool condo pop up on Zillow right at my budget.

After going to check it out, I was a little discouraged by the non-traditional layout and galley kitchen, but it was a model condo that came fully furnished.

I pushed hard on the negotiation and was able to buy a two-bedroom condo for $137,500.

Splitting the mortgage payment with a roommate, I ended up saving money each month compared to my updated $715 per month rent. That was a huge win, and got me on track to bigger and better in the future.

Joining Forces to Buy a Better Home

While living in that condo, I met a really cool girl on a bike ride. Fast forward a few months and we’re dating. A little while later we decided it was time to live together.

Her expensive rental was coming up for renewal, and I decided it was the right time to kick out the roommate, sorry about that Andrew, and replace him with someone much more attractive for my tastes.

I put a little work into the condo while living there and sold it about two and a half years later. I sold it for $215,000, a $77,500 gain.

Pretty good for two a half years while paying less than I would have on rent, right?

That was a 56% gain on what I paid. I don’t know if I’ll ever pull a real estate move that awesome again, but I’m happy to have left that condo quite a bit richer than when I bought it.

My then girlfriend and I moved to Portland together and moved into a rental. In that time we got engaged, got married, and started talking about what’s next for the Rosenbergs.

I had about $120,000 in the bank to put into a new home purchase thanks to savings and the gain on my condo, and my wife had another $100,000 or so to contribute from a starter home fix and flip she had owned in California before we started dating.

We decided that the timing was right for us and the Portland market, and we started hunting for homes.

The real estate market in Portland is nuts. Seriously crazy stuff. Old, crappy homes are selling with multiple offers in less than 24 hours, so getting a house that we would really be happy in was going to be a challenge.

We looked at a couple of houses with a great real estate agent and even made an offer on a place, but we didn’t get it. So we kept our eyes on Zillow to see if something that would be a better fit was available. It took a little while before “The Blue House” caught our attention.

The house was new construction, but it had been sitting long enough with no sale that we thought it was worth pushing a little bit on the price.

We landed at $460,000, and with a 40% down payment, our monthly mortgage payment was about the same as our rent for the prior year. Not bad!

We lived there for only fourteen months before a change in circumstances had us ready to move. But while living in that beautiful home, we had our first child, some fun life milestones, and a house we totally loved.

It was while living in that house that I decided to quit my job to become a full-time freelancer, a big risk with a new baby at home. But we realized that if we sold our house and moved to California to be closer to family, we would have five years of living expenses in the bank.

If we didn’t need to use that money, it would be a great down payment for next time.

We listed the house for sale on March 18, 2016 for $550,000, a 20% increase over what we paid.

Thanks to the craziness that is Portland real estate, the house sold two days later with a full-price, all cash offer. That is a $90,000 gain over what we paid for the house!

Now my lifetime real estate gains totaled up to $167,500, more than two years of work at my Senior Financial Analyst salary I walked away from when I went full-time on my own business.

Planning for a Home Purchase in California

We moved to California about a month later after a two-week escrow and another two-week sale lease-back. We were packed up and on the way to California where a new real estate challenge was waiting.

We found a nice, two-bedroom rental a five-minute walk from the beach. That is our home today. In fact, that’s where I’m sitting writing this article!

But going from a beautiful four-bedroom house to a two-bedroom apartment wasn’t our forever plan. We are already starting to plan for our next home. And our rent is about 25% more than our old mortgage payment, which puts a damper on our finances.

Thanks to hustling, networking, and amazing clients, I only ever needed to pull $2,000 from our savings to support our more expensive life in California. But with a great down payment in the bank, we are starting to look to buy a new house this summer.

Hopefully that down payment is big enough to save us money compared to our current rent. Only time will tell.

But one thing is certain. If it had not been for working on our finances as a couple, we never would have bought The Blue House and made $90,000 on it. And we would be a lot farther from being able to afford a home on the California coastline.

Thanks to joining finances with my wife, I have a much better living situation than I would have without her. Also, thanks to her, I have a wonderful daughter and a life that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

This is a guest post by Eric Rosenberg, a full-time freelancer and blogger at Personal Profitability. Eric writes about personal finance and entrepreneurship at InvestmentZen, his own blog, and other sites around the web.